Hundreds gathered at the Chicago History Museum in Lincoln Park on Thursday for its 60th Independence Day Celebration. They were there for the music and parade, but also to reflect on the nation’s history and values.
Tariq El-Amin, a Southeast Side imam and host and producer of RadioIslam, delivered a stirring rendition of the Declaration of Independence. He said preparing for the reading made him reflect on the importance of confronting history.
“As a citizen, it’s important to be able to be able to look back at one of these founding documents that has laid the road for our freedom and liberty, or for our pursuit of those things,” he said.
A few details in the declaration stand out to El-Amin in particular: the fact that there is no mention of the enslaved Africans living in the country at the time, and a line that refers to Native Americans as “merciless Indian Savages.”
“Even though this was a radical document for that time, it also says that if we don’t look history squarely in the eye, we can’t really appreciate where we are now — and also understand that we have so much further to go,” El-Amin said.
El-Amin’s appearance came as the museum is preparing an exhibition for later this year, titled American Medina, celebrating Muslims in America.
Other presenters and speakers at the Thursday event included activist and historian Timuel Black and Chicago History Museum President Gary T. Johnson.
Following the event, the museum offered free admission to Illinois residents for the afternoon.
Monica Eng is a reporter for Curious City. You can follow her @monicaeng.